Editing places near my house without being doxxed

Hi, I’ve seen stuff around my local area that hasn’t been added to OSM yet. I decided I would sign up here and edit the map to add them; but then I would be doxxing myself.

How can I edit places near where I live without doxxing myself?

Should I simply just not make such edits?

Should I make random edits all over the world (like tracing random houses from public-domain aerial imagery) so that the edits to my local area will blend in with all those other edits?

I really want to update the map; but my personal safety and privacy comes first.


When you make an OSM account, you only need to give a display name and email.

To protect your identity, use a unique pseudonym not used anywhere else and a separate email.

But keep in mind, it’s hard to stay completely anonymous. Your mapping habits, patterns and accidental personal info leaks may reveal your identity.

And to be extra cautious, my guess is that some users create separate accounts for editing different areas, especially if they frequent a place known to others. However, using multiple accounts might raise concerns with the community rules. I’m not entirely sure about this aspect though.

I hope other, more knowledgeable answers will follow, because it’s an interesting question indeed.

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Right now I’m in the process of tracing random houses across the world; both as a way to get familiar with how to use the editor and also make my local area edits blend in; once I feel comfortable enough with making those. Thanks for your advice!

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I’m not sure if it will work in the long run. Eventually, people will be able to tell if your changesets are based on local knowledge or just satellite images. Also, you are expected to mention in the changeset whether it’s from images, surveys, or both.

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I’m at least hoping that by making these random edits the amount of effort required to dox me will be high enough to make all but the most dedicated doxxers give up. How does one exactly tell though if changesets are based on satellite imagery or local knowledge?

P.S. I made a changeset to Keokuk, Iowa, United States with satellite imagery. It’s my first. Hopefully I did a good job with it.

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Openstreetmap is all about local_knowledge. Tracing something form imagery, where you have no such knowledge can turn out bad.

Are you afraid of How did you contribute to OpenStreetMap ? That was probably wise, to do the first change abroad, but remember, aerials can be out of date etc.

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I did the Keokuk changeset with the iD editor, using Bing Maps satellite imagery, so not exactly aerial. I’ll give that link a read though. And also, I don’t live in the United States at all. I’m actually on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, somewhere in Asia.

When mapping near my home, my relatives’ homes, or my friends’ homes I systematically add the entire neighborhood. I typically map one full street at a time and I typically map starting at one edge of the neighborhood and work to the other. The fact that my house, a relative’s house or a friend’s house is somewhere in the middle of that does not become obvious. Or if it is apparent that there is a significant house there, then it will be one of many and not apparent which one of those many.


Yup! That’s a very good strategy! Will combine this with my strategy of making random “trace buildings and houses” edits all over the world.

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Blokcitaat I really want to update the map; but my personal safety and privacy comes first.

I think there are easier ways to find out where someone lives, than searching in editors list from OSM and after you find the one which you think is the person you are looking for. and search in his edits for the place where he lives?
So I don’t care about it.


I really want to update the map; but my personal safety and privacy comes first.

if privacy is required for personal safety I would use a new account for every such edit that you make. This will make it practically impossible for an outsider (everyone without access to internal OpenStreetMap data like access logs and account email addresses) to understand that the same person has made the edits


"Yup! That’s a very good strategy! Will combine this with my strategy of making random “trace buildings and houses” edits all over the world.

Please do not do this.
You can read the general recommendations about changesets and their sizes=
Geographical size of changesets

Combining a house in Taiwan and another in Argentina in the same changeset is not recommended.
P.S. The building where I live is the only one on my street that is mapped with enough detail to be recognized, I map where I move or have passed, it records tracks of my routes and uploads them to OSM, I also use them to create trails and align roads. And so far no one has cared about my current position.


P.S. I made a changeset to Keokuk, Iowa, United States with satellite imagery. It’s my first. Hopefully I did a good job with it.
I can search for edits made in Keokuk, Iowa by new mappers (first CS), search among those new mappers who have CS in Asia, wait a few days and create a heatmap of each one of these mappers, also filter for erratic edits and I will find your place of residence at some point.
Publicly announcing where you did your first CS and where you are going to continue doing it is not consistent with being afraid of losing your privacy.


Here you can enter a bogus ‘my location’ OpenStreetMap
The ‘mappers near me’ it seems to be using that in showing pins who else is there where I’m not. If those have done the same and they should that pinned map is not very accurate,
If you upload traces of e.g. cycling, make sure to cut off the ends otherwise the sum will lead to your doorstep, anonymised or not.

Depends on how concerned you are about revealing private data.

Is being located to within specific town fine? Then systematic mapping of town should preserve your location within it (though beware of more detailed mapping nearby your home or mapping everywhere but not around your home and so on).

Or maybe you are fine even with fairly detailed location of pseudonymous account within a town/city?

Maybe map only when travelling and not around you?

In some areas of world mapping solely from aerial is welcome (where data quality is really low) but you mentioned interest in a specifically local area.

In my case I decided to not care about it: revealing where I am reveals some data, but I am fine with it.

Limited release of private info, while being aware of it is by definition not a doxxing (and may be good or bad idea).

You could use OSM data to guess where I live, but for example

(1) for now I am renting for limited time, I will live elsewhere within year or two
(2) OSM data from mapping can be used to limit my location to area where about 2000 people live. maybe more (photo from File:Nowa Huta - Plac Centralny z lotu ptaka.jpg - Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-4.0 by Fly4pix, I cropped it)

And anyway if someone would be interested in meeting I would be happy to answer OSM message from them to talk about OSM.

note that mapping houses from aerials and shops or other data from survey in your area will not prevent much

That depends on safety situation: if for someone release of rough location would cause real risks (they are hunted by KGB or victim of dangerous stalker or something) then I would sadly recommend against OSM mapping based on surveys.

For someone in regular situation leaking of rough location where they live seems to me not worse than revealing where I roughly live by going shopping. Or by receiving deliveries*. Or by using phone. Though danger depends on specifics (where info is leaked - to everyone immediately in case of OSM - or how detailed, in case of OSM data it is only rough data unless someone has edit comments like “adding my home where I live”).

*note that it not being public outright changes less than expected, all databases should be assumed to leak sooner or later: you signed up for delivery and gave your address? This data will leak at some point or leaked already. You filled some other form that requested your address? It is sold already or will be sold soon and available to anyone to buy. Or maybe government/semi-government database leaked with details on millions of people in one go anyway.

See List of data breaches - Wikipedia for partial list of publicly known ones.

How concerned you should be depends on various factors (and if you have good reasons to be concerned then posting them on internet is likely not a good idea either)

I am editing with StreetComplete, without enabling manual uploads, which effectively broadcasts my current position but I live in place safe enough with no unusual risks so that poses no problems.

Just trace them in separate edits, not in one edit that has both China and Jamaica.


Don’t worry, the changesets are separated by town. Obviously I’ll separate them by town. Not do multiple countries in one edit.

cc @Mateusz_Konieczny

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I’m not sure what you mean by doxxing here. I assume doxxing requires disclosing publicly where a specific person lives.
By mapping on OSM you disclose your email and your IP address, both of which are not publicly disclosed but just shared with the OSM website. You can anyway use a temporary email and connect through a proxy or VPN to OSM every time you make an edit if you’re worried.

Basically what you’re disclosing is that in the area where you live there is a person contributing to OSM, as long as you don’t disclose any more information here on the forums.
If the place where you live is densely populated you’ll be quite anonymous.
If you live in a small village, say 50 people, if another one of them is checking OSM changesets he may probably discover you’re contributing to the map. Frankly it’s way more probable they’ll notice it because you’re going around taking notes about your surrounding though.

If you want to get a bit more anxious: your IP address is linked to you if you have a regular contract with your name written on it. If someone wanted to find you very bad, and had powers to force both OSM and your ISP provider to give them the required information, say through blackmail or by forcing them through law. In that case they could discover that you make edits on OSM and link that with your name.
I don’t know what would be the problem there anyways… If they’re trying to catch you they’ll likely be happy enough by linking your IP address with your name, without using the OSM information.
I don’t think you should worry too much about doxxing yourself, as long as you don’t write your name here.

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When I say doxxing, I mean that I don’t want to have my home address out there. Well, I doubt someone out there hates me enough and is so dedicated to destroying me that they’ve exhausted all the usual doxxing avenues (people search sites, social media, etc.) and now have to resort to mapping sites.

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I’m not sure what you’re afraid about. Even if you disclose your exact address you’re just disclosing that someone lives there and that that person who lives there contributes to OSM. I will have no idea who you are even if I closely follow your changesets. If I live in the same town as you, I may eventually (with a lot of effort and dedication) discover who you are. At that point, if I see you in the streets, I may discuss with you about OSM.

If you didn’t contribute to OSM I could still look at aerial images, see there’s a house where you live and make a confident guess that someone lives there.

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Maybe I’m just too paranoid. This entire community seems friendly which is what I can infer by reading the posts here; in my life I’ve never majorly pissed off anyone who would be dedicated enough; so maybe I can do surveys of my local area and I wouldn’t have to worry much.